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Kenedy Ranch, near Kingsville, Texas

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Old Wednesday 10th March 2004, 03:38   #1
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Kenedy Ranch, near Kingsville, Texas

In April 1999 we went on a birding weekend to the Kenedy Ranch. Here is some information a and a trip report. We went on a privately organized tour with 2 experienced Texas birders. I believe the Kenedy Memorial Foundation have changed the rules on access to the Ranch, so please have a look at their own website for contact information:

The Ranch, south of Kingsville, to the east of Hwy 77 which is the major route south to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It is owned and managed by the Kenedy Memorial Foundation and is over 235,000 acres in size. It is considered the last large tract of native coastal prairie habitat in Texas and for over a century it has been a highly protected game preserve. This area was once home to the last tribe of Karankawa Indians. There are vast areas of native grasses and oak mottes, migrating sand dunes, salt flats, bays and artesian wells, providing habitat for the diverse wildlife on the ranch, although we only saw a few deer, a Texas Horned Lizard (endangered) and a land turtle (not sure of the species, but also endangered). The birdlife is prolific!

We drove down from Houston on the Thursday afternoon and stayed in a motel at Kingsville, so that we would be sure to be at the rendez-vous point on time, on the Friday morning. We'd been informed that the group would not wait for late-comers, and everyone had to be signed in to the Ranch together.

We met at the ranch gate, south of the Sarita Rest-stop, on Hwy 77, and then proceeded to bird along the ranch road on our way to the San Pedro Camp, our home for the next 2 nights. The camp was constructed in the 19th century, before the ranch was purchased by Captain Mifflin Kenedy, the main house being used as a residence until the 1920's. Our accomodation was very comfortable, with most of the rooms having private bathrooms. Electricity was supplied by generator & we had fun barbecuing both nights, and there was also a good propane gas oven in the kitchen.

On Friday morning, before arriving at the Ranch, we had a great start to the trip by getting our first life bird of the weekend - a Harris' Hawk, perched on a post by Hwy 77, near Riviera. On the ranch we easily saw the South Texas specialities : Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Tropical Parula, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Hooded Oriole and Buff-bellied Hummingbird. The total list for the whole group was about 155 -160, but we didn't pick up as many as we weren't always in the right place at the right time! Nevertheless we are very satisfied with the 108 species that we did get, and my life list has now grown to 329.

The weather was hot & very windy (20-30 mph on Friday) which kept away not only the mosquitoes (good!), but also the migrating warblers, etc, that we were hoping for (not so good!). The wind did not keep away the ticks, though - anyone going in the future be warned! The second trip the following weekend had perfect weather conditions for a good count of migratory birds - their total list topped 200.

We rose at 5:30 each morning in order to get an early start and were rewarded with great looks at the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet singing his heart out very near the camp. We then car-pooled in pick-ups and SUV's and spent the rest of the day driving over the ranch's caliche roads, picking up 17 lifers on Friday, 19 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. We would like to thank the leaders of our trip and the many more experienced members of our group, who helped us see our 41 life birds.

Highlights were Greater Roadrunner, which had just caught a lizard for breakfast; Reddish Egret in good breeding colours; 3 Lesser Goldfinches in beautiful vivid yellow & black plummage; a couple of young Great-horned Owls on a huge nest, high in a live oak; all the herons/egrets and the 3 ibises in one weekend; the beautiful colours of the Green Jays; good, long look at the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl; singing Painted Buntings; and a female Wild Turkey stealing seed from the bird feeder at San Pedro Camp!

* Lifers

* Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Ruddy Duck
* American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
* Redhead
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Reddish Egret
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
* Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
* Cooper's Hawk
* Harris' Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara
Peregrine Falcon
* Wild Turkey
Northern Bobwhite
Sora (heard only)
American Coot
* Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
* Western Sandpiper
* Least Sandpiper
* Pectoral Sandpiper
* Wilson's Phalarope
Black-necked Stilt
* Lesser Golden-Plover
* Black-bellied Plover
Wilson's Plover
* Snowy Plover
Laughing Gull
* Franklin's Gull
* Gull-billed Tern
Mourning Dove
* Common Ground-Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl
* Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Common Nighthawk
* Buff-bellied Hummingbird
* Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
* Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
* Olive-sided Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
* Brown-crested Flycatcher
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
* Great Kiskadee
* Green Jay
* Chihuahuan Raven
White-eyed Vireo
* Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Mockingbird
* Long-billed Thrasher
* Curve-billed Thrasher
* Bewick's Wren
Carolina Wren
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
* Black-crested Titmouse
* Lesser Goldfinch
* Tropical Parula
* Louisiana Waterthrush
Savannah Sparrow
* Field Sparrow
* Lark Sparrow
* Botteri's Sparrow
* Olive Sparrow
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
* Hooded Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Great-tailed Grackle
* Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird

Total species 108
Lifers 41
Latest World lifer - Double-striped Thick-knee (Costa Rica)
World - 1135; N America - 632; USA - 418; Texas - 372; Yard (garden) - 142 (latest House Wren)

Last edited by HelenB : Thursday 11th March 2004 at 21:33. Reason: AOU split of the Black-crested Titmouse from Tufted Titmouse
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Old Wednesday 10th March 2004, 06:18   #2
Dave B Smith
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What a great trip for Texas birds! And I see from your list that you might have one new lifer there: Tufted Titmouse (Black-crested) as the AOU recently split this as a separate species, Black-crested, from Tufted Titmouse.
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Old Thursday 11th March 2004, 21:59   #3
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Thanks for reminding me of that, Dave. Our guides did tell us at the time to note down that we'd seen the Black-crested race, in case they were split in the future. I'm sure I did adjust my lifelist when Birder's Diary had an update with the changes, and I've edited the account above, but I need to edit the report on my website.
Latest World lifer - Double-striped Thick-knee (Costa Rica)
World - 1135; N America - 632; USA - 418; Texas - 372; Yard (garden) - 142 (latest House Wren)
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